TODAY'S PAPER
Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon
LifestyleColumnistsJessica Damiano

Garden Detective: Fiddle leaf fig, wild violets, azalea bark

Special care should be taken in dividing a

Special care should be taken in dividing a fiddle leaf fig with two trunks. Credit: Dreamstime

DEAR JESSICA: My fiddle leaf fig has two trunks. I am happy with the plant but I would like to separate the smaller trunk and transfer it to another pot. What do you recommend? — Joseph Ferraro, Dix Hills

DEAR JOSEPH: Fiddle leaf figs don’t typically take kindly to being disturbed, so you may want to consider leaving your plant alone. However, if you still would like to divide it, baby steps are the way to go.

Separating the roots six weeks before fully splitting them and hurling them into new potting soil will reduce the stress on the plant and increase your chances of success.

Using a sharp knife, slice through the soil and root ball directly between the two stems, then pack the new space between them with fresh potting mix. Water well, mark your calendar and wait six weeks, providing water and sunlight as usual.

When division day arrives, prepare two new homes for your plants (or one, if you intend to keep half the plant in the current container). Ensure new pots have drainage holes in their bottoms, and fill each with potting mix formulated for indoor plants. Slice between the plants again and remove them from their pot, replanting immediately. Take care to bury their roots exactly as deeply as they were originally and firm the soil well. Water well, and apply a 3-1-2 fertilizer to each pot.

DEAR JESSICA: These flowers are popping up all over my backyard garden area. I didn't plant them, but perhaps my home’s prior owner did. Are they perennials or weeds? — Jackie Selva, Islip

DEAR JACKIE: Those are wild violets, considered a lawn-spoiling weed by some and a pretty spring plant by others. I’m with the latter group. Most varieties are annual, but they readily self-seed and return year after year.

DEAR JESSICA: Onion plants keep sprouting up in my flower beds. Where are they coming from and are they safe to eat? — Lisa Palermo, West Islip

DEAR LISA: Unless they were deliberately planted, my guess is they are not onion plants, but rather onion grass (also called wild onion), a common lawn and garden weed. The best way to eradicate them is to dig them up, but the process will take several years because at any given time there will be dormant bulblets underground that you aren’t aware of.

Although wild onions are edible, I advise against consuming them because nonedible look-alikes — like some poisonous lilies — may pop up in the garden, as well, and mistaking them could have dire consequences.

DEAR READERS: In my response to a question about the control of azalea bark scale on April 5, I recommended scraping and pruning, but noted that for particularly heavy infestations, a soil drench using a product containing the active ingredient imidacloprid could be used. However, sale and use of that pesticide is no longer permitted in Nassau, Suffolk, Queens or Brooklyn.

And for good reason: Imidacloprid belongs to a class of pesticides called Neonicotinoids, which are chemically similar to nicotine and are toxic to honeybees. Last year, I wrote that the federal Environmental Protection Agency had canceled the registrations of a dozen pesticides containing neonicotinoids, but when writing my response, it slipped my mind that imidacloprid belonged to that class.

For light infestations, scraping and pruning remains the best course of action. Individual scale bumps also can be killed by dabbing with alcohol-soaked cotton swabs. For heavier infestations, repeated applications of insecticidal soaps (5 tablespoons diluted in a gallon of water) can be used, but only are effective in early spring when insects are in their larval stage.

If the infestation is not noticed until scale have reached adulthood, and is so extreme that pruning away affected branches would decimate the plant, prune just enough to improve air circulation within the plant and keep it well-watered. Apply Neem oil according to package directions, and consider luring scale's natural predators — ladybugs, soldier beetles and parasitic wasps — by planting their preferred food sources, including cilantro, coreopsis, cosmos, fennel and dill. Ladybugs also can be purchased at many nurseries and garden centers, or by mail-order.

Recommended reading

“A Way to Garden: A hands-on primer for every season,” by Margaret Roach (Timber Press, $30)

In 2008, Margaret Roach, a former Newsday garden editor, left a high-profile career as editorial director at Martha Stewart Living for the peace and solitude of a farmhouse in the Berkshires. Over the past decade, she has tamed her wild slice of earth into an enviable garden, launched a popular website (awaytogarden.com) and hosted a radio show, as well as her own podcast. This edition is a thorough update of her debut book, written in 1998 while still living in the fast lane. Roach’s storytelling, wisdom and advice are as endearing as ever; the photos of her garden, inspiring; and her original list of catalog sources, updated — as are the trendy "it" plants she had recommended, some of which, Roach says, "are now known thugs." A lot more has changed, and the author has painstakingly tended to updating every detail. Reading the book not only educates — it nourishes the gardener's soul and imparts the sense of peace we know Roach herself has found.

More Lifestyle